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Bucks 95, Thunder 89

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 18, 2013 at 2:20 pm •  Published: April 17, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Wednesday’s loss to the Bucks.

  • Great season.
  • The Thunder finished 60-22, its best mark since the franchise moved to Oklahoma City.
  • Now, the real fun begins.
  • The Thunder will open the 2013 playoffs Sunday at home against the Lakers or Rockets. It really shouldn’t matter which team it is.
  • As for the regular season finale, the Thunder sat Kevin Durant, Kevin Martin, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison. That left plenty of playing time for the youngins, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, Reggie Jackson, Daniel Orton and DeAndre Liggins. And those guys were gassed by the end of the game. It contributed to Milwaukee’s game-clinching 38-21 run over the final 15 minutes, 14 seconds.
  • “I thought the effort was good,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Some of the guys that haven’t played a lot of minutes got extended minutes so I’m sure they were a little fatigued. But that’s part of being an NBA player. You have to fight through the fatigue, and I thought they did that tonight.”
  • For what’s it’s worth, the Thunder went 8-for-25 from the field with four turnovers in the final 15 minutes, 14 seconds. That was the ballgame.
  • A lot of strong showings by the youngsters, though. PJIII started in place of KD and scored a career-high 14 points with nine rebounds in 39 minutes. He made seven of his 15 shots and on nearly each one of them he showed little to no hesitation. Instead, he made strong moves or took confident shots. I thought that was a great sign.
  • Not encouraging: PJIII running into the game with his warm-up shirt on. Rookie.
  • Hasheem Thabeet played 20 minutes and finished with eight rebounds, four coming on the offensive end. Here’s the thing about Thabeet. He goes and gets the ball. When he wants to at least. It’s pretty pleasing to watch the big fella chase down the ball as it comes off the rim, especially when he can’t quite get to it but finds a way to get a hand on it to keep a possession alive.
  • Russell Westbrook played only seven minutes, mainly just to bump his consecutive games played streak to 394 games. He scored four points with three assists.
  • For the life of me I can’t figure out what Westbrook did to put the fear of God into Brandon Jennings. Every time these two teams meet, Jennings wants no part of Westbrook. It’s incredible. Because Brandon Jennings is a tough, confident and cocky little dude. But he loses all assertiveness when facing Westbrook. It happened again tonight. In the opening minutes, after Westbrook scored two quick buckets out of post-ups against Jennings, the Bucks quickly switched Monta Ellis onto Westbrook. Jennings slid over to Sefolosha. At the other end, Jennings couldn’t get rid of the ball fast enough, passing ahead to Monta Ellis on the wing before even crossing halfcourt. The only time Jennings really looked for his shot was when the ball swung back to him on the perimeter and he settled for deep 3s.
  • There is absolutely no room for them, but J.J. Redick and John Henson would be great fits on the Thunder. And I’m not just saying that because Henson exploded for 28 and 16 tonight. I’ve loved his potential since his UNC days.
  • Jeremy Lamb: 0-for-10 from 3-point range in his last 10 games. Where’s the panic button?
  • In all seriousness, I couldn’t care less about Lamb’s offense tonight. I think it’s pretty clear to everyone that he can score. I was focusing on his defense. And he was pretty solid. He covered Redick, Mike Dunleavy, Monta Ellis for a bit and Marquis Daniels. That’s four players of various size, who have completely different skill sets. Yet Lamb held his own against each. Very impressive.
  • Lamb: “I think I did pretty good. Ellis hit a couple of pretty tough shots. And one time Dunleavy got to the rim. But other than that I think I played pretty solid. I tried to keep a hand up and stay down on pump fakes and stuff like that. So I think it was OK.”
  • Lamb continued, saying maintaining the fundamentals are the things the coaching staff is trying to get him to work on defensively. “Definitely,” he said. “Sometimes I find myself trying to block shots and gambling and stuff like that. So they try to keep me to stay solid and keep up a stick hand and stuff like that.”
  • The reason Lamb’s defense is so significant is that it likely will be what gets him minutes. The Thunder doesn’t need many more scorers. If he wants to see the floor and see it consistently he’ll likely have to improve on that end.
  • Brooks on Lamb’s D: “It’s something that he has to get better, and he will. He will have a summer with us to get stronger and to continue to work on the defensive principles that we work on every day. But that’s an area that he has to get better at.” I followed up by asking Brooks what needs to be Lamb’s main focus, on-ball defense, help D, rotating, what? “Some of the things is just the physical aspects,” Brooks said. “He’s 20 years old. And no matter what, he’s 20 years old. You only get older one day at a time. And his strength is going to improve in the next couple of years because of the work that he puts in with our training staff. That’s a big area of his (necessary) improvement over the summer, just getting stronger.”
  • At that point I jokingly asked Brooks if Lamb could bench 185 pounds, which Durant famously couldn’t do when prior to his rookie season. “Like Kevin, as long as you can lift a basketball that’s all I care about,” Brooks said.
  • Brooks started the game with an all out zone. He said after the game that he’s done it before, but I don’t remember it. The Thunder stuck with it for approximately 8 1/2 minutes, and it worked rather well. The Bucks went just 4-for-13 with three turnovers against the zone over that initial span.
  • Worth noting that the Bucks looked ready for summer break from the very beginning.
  • Brooks on the zone: “I’ve done it a few times throughout the year, not a lot. Enough to see if we can change things up. I liked it. We have some active athletes that can cover the ground. I thought that starting unit did a great job of setting the tone defensively with our zone. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to play Russell…I wanted to see how the zone would look. It’s something that we will tinker with throughout the years and we might use it again. But we’re not a big zone team because we’re pretty solid in our man-to-man and it’s hard to score on our man-to-man and we want to keep it that way.”
  • If teams are someday going to double Serge Ibaka like the Bucks started doing tonight he’s going to have to get much, much better at passing out of the double team.
  • Jackson drove right and dunked with his left hand with 1:49 in the second quarter. Go back and watch it.
  • Jackson’s length is just incredible. He had six rebounds tonight and on one possession just played volleyball after a miss, keeping the play alive…without hardly leaving the ground!
  • Ronnie Brewer’s shooting struggles have gotten in his head. He didn’t say that, but you can just tell his overthinking out there now when the ball is in his hands. He missed a wide open layup and airballed another jumper tonight before finishing 1-for-5 from the field.
  • Brewer probably should say the hell with it and just start chucking. Also known as pulling the “Derek Fisher.”
  • Fish has now jacked up 24 shots in his past three games. Forget the fact that he’s only made seven.
  • Thunder hung its 2012-13 Northwest Division banner just before the start of the game. There are now three division banners and the one conference championship banner. Rafters are starting to look pretty good.
  • Thabo Sefolosha on the regular season: “We did good. I think we stayed focused throughout the year. We had some ups and downs, but we stuck with it and played well. To win 60 games, it’s never easy. And for us to do it, it means a lot.”
  • Up next. Game 1, Round 1. Sunday.

-DM-

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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